Episode 155:

Show Notes 


 Going slow: As busy, high achieving women always on the go, both Dr Mary and Dr Lucy, feel somewhat uneasy and uncomfortable when they find themselves having to slow down. Many of us can relate to this, and find this sensation particularly challenging during the initial stages of illness or while recovering, as we tend to downplay the severity and push ourselves to keep going. We tell ourselves to toughen up and power through, using the metaphorical suggestion of having a cup of concrete. The balance between self care, self soothing, self indulgence, productivity, procrastination, and rest is an important one for overall health. How do we differentiate between these actions? It is intriguing because, for a long time, societal influences have encouraged us to persevere even when unwell. However, the COVID pandemic has somewhat altered this narrative, as we were all compelled to prioritise rest and recovery, which has led to a reassessment of soldiering on while sick. Nevertheless, the challenge lies in distinguishing between genuine rest and unproductive procrastination. What is the secret to unravelling that distinction?

Trust and traps: The key to finding balance lies in self awareness, honesty, and reflection. Learning to trust ourselves and understanding our own needs and limitations is a mindset that many of us find quite difficult. But practising self reflection, with honesty, allows us to tune into our inner awareness and discern whether our procrastination stems from a genuine need for rest or a lack of motivation. Regular self reflection allows us to assess how our immediate choices align with our long term health goals. If your choices frequently lead you further away from your long term goals, it may be a sign to adjust your regular decision making and make choices that future you will thank present you for. It can be so  challenging to develop self trust, especially when we have failed to follow through on promises we’ve made to ourselves, but the lack of self trust often leads us to rely on external direction, falling into the trap of perfectionism or seeking rigid plans to follow. Building trust in yourself empowers you to understand your genuine desires and needs, allowing you to navigate your own path with confidence. 

Small steps, achievable goals:  If we frequently set self care goals that we consistently fail to achieve, our brains may start to believe that we can't succeed in taking care of ourselves. To overcome this, setting small, achievable goals (SMART goals) can be helpful as our brains begin to learn from these small successes. Additionally, our human brains often prioritise immediate comfort and gratification, despite this instant pleasure not necessarily aligning with our long term goals and needs. Finding a balance between immediate gratification and long term wellbeing is key to practising self care effectively.

The poison is in the dose: For any of us, one afternoon of lying on the couch watching Netflix is not going to derail our health journey, but 28 days of doing this most likely will! We can get really unstuck if a single indulgence leads to a chain reaction, and our tipping points with behaviour, foods, alcohol and so on, is different for each of us. Knowing yourself well and being able to regulate your behaviour, anticipating and understanding your own limitations, becomes essential in staying on track with your health journey. For many of us, avoiding the food or the action altogether might be the best solution as sometimes it's easier to abstain completely rather than try to moderate intake of something you know you struggle to moderate!

Write your own script: While other people can, (and will!) offer suggestions, only you truly know what will work best for you in the long run in relation to your health goals. You have the power to figure things out for yourself. You are the boss of you! While coaching can assist in designing a fulfilling life aligned with your values and aspirations, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. It's a process of continuous refinement, adapting, and finding what works for you. By being honest, reflective, and adaptable, you can and will become your own compassionate scientist living your best life as you travel your own journey.

Episode 155:



Dr Mary Barson: (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.

Dr Lucy Burns: (0:15) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of

Both: (0:20) Real Health and Weight Loss!

Dr Lucy Burns: (0:23) Good morning, gorgeous listeners. I am back with Dr Mary this week. And we've got a super relevant, to us and probably to you, topic. The title of today's podcast episode is When to go and When to slow. It's probably a perennial question. But it's one certainly of interest to us because we have been Go Go going. And now we're just in a bit of a slow slow slowing. So Dr Mary, gorgeous woman. Good morning.

Dr Mary Barson: (0:54) Good morning. You can probably tell that I've got this, I'm going to call it a sexy husk, going on with my voice. I definitely don't feel particularly sexy right now. I'm recovering from the spicy cold as it is. I got COVID last week, which was unpleasant. And although I'm a lot better in terms of, you know, I don't think I'm actively shedding virus anymore. I do feel blah and I sound blah. It's always nice when you've got that kind of external cue to sort of let everyone know what's going on internally. So that's my voice right now.

Dr Lucy Burns: (1:33) Indeed, indeed. And it's been interesting and lovely listeners, you will know that Mary and I did back to back road shows travelling interstate for six weeks on. Back to back with, certainly with Mary's family, not my family, they were at home. And you know, lots and lots of organising, lots of being on, lots of connecting, lots of hugging, lots of everything. It was extremely good. But it was also quite depleting from, you know, each of our personal points of views. So there is a fabulous book, which is a little more sort of intense than just you know, you've done too much and now you've got a cold, which is called The Body Keeps Score, which is really more about trauma. But I think in this case, I can absolutely see that our bodies have gone, You know what, ladies? Time to slow.

Dr Mary Barson: (2:27) That's right, the universe sending us signals, if we believe in such things. I mean, I also have kids in daycare, so it's probably going to be inevitable. But yes. I think if I didn’t have like, you know, a virus right now, I probably would still be going quite fast, because that's generally what I do. So it is interesting that some reflection has been forced upon me in the form of bodily and brain fatigue, and I just have to sit in it for a little while.

Dr Lucy Burns: (3:00) Yeah, yep. And, you know, if you're a high achieving person, as both Dr Mary and I are, high achieving women, it feels a bit awkward. It feels a bit uncomfortable to be sitting there doing kind of not much. Particularly I reckon the hardest bit is when either you very first start to get sick, or you're recovering from sickness, where you think, Well, I'm not that bad, I’ll just soldier on.

Dr Mary Barson: (3:25) Just push through, come on, toughen up, have a cup of concrete and just do it. I sometimes do. I have a tendency to tell myself to have a cup of concrete and keep going. Which is fine, and good and helpful when it's in the right balance. Which I believe is a lovely segue to what we're talking about today, Lucy, about, you know, self care, self soothing, self indulgence, you know, the doing versus procrastinating versus resting. How do you sort all that out? You know, isn't self care, just lying, you know, hunched over in bad posture on the couch, eating donuts, bingeing Netflix, is that self care?

Dr Lucy Burns: (4:20) Of course that's a rhetorical question. And of course, we all know the answer is no. It is interesting, isn't it? Because you're right. I mean, and for a long time we will have been conditioned by various commercials to soldier on when we're unwell. In many ways, COVID has actually changed that story completely, because none of us were allowed to soldier on when we were unwell a couple of years ago. And so I think that we have probably just recalibrated soldiering on when we're sick. But the interesting thing is, is how do you know when you're resting? Or how do you know when you're procrastinating? Like, what's the secret there? What do you think Mares? What do you think it is?

Dr Mary Barson: (5:10) I think there's two key parts to this. It's awareness. Self awareness, I think is really important, and trying to understand your own needs and limits. But also, you know, being honest with yourself. And reflection. And I think some time for self reflection is also really important. And in that moment of reflection, kind of tune into your needs, your awareness. Am I procrastinating cleaning the house because I just really don't want to? Am I procrastinating, you know, going to the gym because I just don't really want to? Or do I genuinely need to rest? And only you know the answer to that question. And you need to figure it out for yourself. But with some self reflection that gives you the, regular self reflection is great, if you can find a way to fit it in. It doesn't take very long. I like to journal as most people know. You know, just that regular assessment, you can see how are your choices aligning with your overall goals. And if your choices are frequently taking you further away from your goals, then that perhaps is an indication that you need to adjust the choices that you're regularly making. And if you notice a pattern of you know, regular, you know, self indulgence, or regular self soothing, when perhaps that's not quite what you need, perhaps self care would take a different form if you were really honest with yourself. But also sometimes, sometimes you are, it is totally possible to push yourself excessively and neglect your self care when you should be resting. So awareness, reflection, honesty, and how do your choices fit in with your overarching goals?

Dr Lucy Burns: (7:06) Exactly. And it's interesting, because I think for a lot of us, we don't trust ourselves, and particularly if you've made promises to yourself, that you're going to do it, I'm going to clean up the house, and I'm going to do it today and then you don't do it, for whatever reason. Or you’re going to go to the gym, Yep, I'm going, I'm gonna or I'm gonna go for a walk. And we make these promises and you actually don't follow through, then your brain goes, Well I don’t know what's going on here, you know, what am I? What story am I giving myself? What is true and what isn't? So it can be really hard at the start, I think, to develop that self trust. But once you've got the self trust, then you know what you really, really, truly want and need. And I think one of the traps we fall into is because we don't trust or know ourselves very well, we rely on external direction, which is why then we can fall into the perfectionist trap. Or the trap that we need is, you know, a meal plan to follow. Or that we need a personal trainer to design us an exercise program that we will follow religiously, whether it meets our needs or not. And we don't actually have the confidence or the self awareness to orchestrate our own plan.

Dr Mary Barson: (8:35) Yes, and I think this balance is important here too. But our brains, they learn from success far more readily than we learn from failure. Well, to put it another way, if we frequently set ourselves, you know, self care goals, and we just frequently don't hit them, our brains gonna learn that we can't do it. So we could fall into that Can't do it, won't try. If you're able to, you make some self care goals that you can keep. And this is where making really, really little, you know, doable, small, achievable goals. So SMART goals where you really shrink the change right down can be helpful, then our brain starts to learn from success. And the other thing to bear in mind is that our human brains, we tend to be very short term focused. We tend to be stuck in the moment. We want immediate comfort, we want immediate self gratification, we want to be rested, entertained. We want to feel pleasure right now, in this moment. But often the thing that can bring us pleasure, or comfort or entertainment right now in this moment, might not be compatible with what we want long term. So yeah, I could rest on the couch right now with some chocolate and some Netflix means I'm rested, I'm entertained, I've got pleasure. It's really lovely. Short term me is doing backflips of delight. But long term me is just like banging on the glass saying No, Don't, Stop it, just go for the walk, you know, call your friends and go for a walk or just put the chocolate away, it's not helpful. Because you are giving into your short term desires at the expense of your long term goals and long term needs. And that can be tricky for humans to think long term and to think about the long term consequences of our actions. So you’ve got to be kind to yourself now. And kind to yourself in the future as well, be kind to future you.

Dr Lucy Burns: (10:51) Absolutely. And I think the other thing to just bear in mind also is, it's all about the amount of times that you perhaps do that. Like, you know, we're not saying there's anything wrong with laying on the couch watching Netflix. In fact, I did that on Saturday. So here's the thing, you know, again, banging on about my crazy swimming, so I'm swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming. Didn't swim when Ihad my cold, because that's not good for viruses. Gave myself seven days grace, got back into the pool. Yay. Good. Two days. Yep. That was good. Excellent. On Saturday, recently, I was still tired. And in fact, I've developed now a stye in my eye. And, you know, I had done some coaching in the morning. And I wanted to, you know, my plan was go for the swim, go for the swim. And in fact, I just didn't. I didn't want to. Didn't matter what I said to myself, I just didn't want to. So I actually said, You know what, I got out my chair, I've got a fancy recliner sort of chair. So I set that all up with my blankie. It was cold. I watched a couple of series of Netflix, I didn't eat chocolate because I don't do that anymore. And I felt really well rested. But I didn't need to do that the next day again, or the next day or the next day. So it's not like something I do every day go, Oh, I'm so tired, I need a rest, I'll just watch telly for three hours a day. It's really It's that thing of, you know, one day of watching telly doesn't undo all your health goals. But, yeah, maybe 28 days in a row could.

Dr Mary Barson: (12:25) Absolutely. The poison is in the dose. And it's like online shopping, you know. If it suits you to buy some fancy sparkly shoes, go for it. But if you buy sparkly fancy shoes, you know, every day, then that's probably going to really start to hurt your financial future and your financial well being. So yes, self care activities can be self soothing. Absolutely. However, anything done too much, may be unhelpful to our future selves. If you've got heaps of money, you want to buy shoes everyday, go for it, I'm not going to stop you. And if three hours of television can fit into your health goals and your lifestyle, that's fine. Go for it, I'm not going to stop you. However, it's important to have that self reflection and that honesty and that awareness to say, Are my choices really helping me here?

Dr Lucy Burns: (13:16) Yeah. And I think the other tricky thing in this, so, you know, we've just basically said that, you know, one shower doesn't break a drought. It becomes tricky if the thing, though, leads to more things. So what I mean by that, this is like the, you know, the person who has an addiction, an alcohol addiction, for example, whose brains going, Oh, well, you know, one glass of wine isn't going to break the drought. Well, if you then can't stop, if you can't regulate, if one thing is going to lead to 1000s. That's where you really do need to know yourself well.

Dr Mary Barson: (13:55) Absolutely, yes, I've got friends who have difficulties with poker machines, which are, in my opinion, a really significant problem in Australian society. They're these like, just this gambling machine that's got little bright lights. And that gives you a big dopamine hit. And I couldn’t care less basically, I could do it, not do it. I think I've done it a couple of times. Yeah, it's a little bit fun, but it was really, really just not for me. And I can go to a venue and there are poker machines there and it just doesn't bother me at all. But I know people who I care about, for whom that is a really big problem. And it's just much easier for them in the long run to just not do it at all, and even avoid venues where they're at. And it's just better for them because you know, a little bit is harmful. Again, self reflection, honesty, adjustment, and you know, we can all do this. For me. I mean, it's a much more mild example, well possibly mild. Maybe not actually because health is really incredibly important. Ice cream and white chocolate. I don't eat them anymore. But you know, I have still to this day, would have extreme difficulty regulating these. So if I had a little bit of ice cream, I would want a lot more. And if I had a little bit of white chocolate, I'd probably want a lot more. Even though it’d make me feel sick, even though all of these things. So it is just easier for me to just not have them. And life is great and lovely and wonderful without them. It's just so much easier.

Dr Lucy Burns: (15:26) Yes, easier to have none than some, for certain products or certain activities. And yes, mine is, well, certainly Lindor balls has always been one, you know, milk chocolate, but also games on my phone, like Candy Crush, those sorts of games. So even though I've never had a poker machine problem, I can completely understand it. Because I find once I start playing those sorts of games, I do this to myself, I start bargaining. I'll go, I'll stop when the clock reaches 11 o'clock. And then what happens is it becomes 11:02. And I go, Ah, I've missed the deadline. Okay, it'll be 11:05. And then you know, of course, you miss that. And all of a sudden, Oh I’ll  just have one more game, last game, last game, Lucy, last game, then you can go and do. And then, you know, five games and hours can go by as you're bargaining with yourself to stop it.

Dr Mary Barson: (16:16) And it's just potentially really not helpful.

Dr Lucy Burns: (16:19) No, no, no. But again, the story in my head used to be, Oh I just need to have a rest. I'm just going to sit down and put my feet up, have a rest, play a couple of games, and then I'll get back to whatever it is I was doing. So recognising that that story wasn't helpful and wasn't true, gave me then some space to change it. To say that actually games like Candy Crush, steal, they steal my time.

Dr Mary Barson: (16:43) Yes. But maybe you did need a rest. Like we do. Rest is important. But I get it the Candy Crush, the bejewelled not helpful way to rest. So it could be you know, finding, what is it that you're getting out of the unhelpful habit? What is it that you're getting out of it? And can you find a more helpful habit, a more helpful thing to do that'll still get you the benefit that you want? Smoking cessation. I talk a lot about my beautiful patients about, you know, what are the good things about smoking. And sometimes people are surprised when I ask them that, other times they're not and they'll rattle off 55 amazing things about smoking and all the reasons why they like it, and they don't want to give it up. But there's always something. It's not just the nicotine addiction. It's definitely part of that, but there is something that people get out of smoking. And quite frequently people say stress relief, or just a moment to myself. What could you do that would give you stress release or a moment to yourself that isn't so harmful to your long term health goals?

Dr Lucy Burns: (17:45) Yes, yes, indeed. Well, interestingly, so we're actually recording this podcast in the middle of the day, and it normally goes to air in the morning, and so we always open up with a Good morning, blah, blah, blah. But it's beautiful winter sun today. And so for about 20 minutes, I just went outside, and I took my socks and shoes off, and gave my poor wintry feet a little blast of winter sun, lay there just basically like a lizard basking in it. The UV index is low. It's not harmful, but it's so so beautiful. Now I didn't take my phone, I just lay there doing nothing.

Dr Mary Barson: (18:26) Sounds very good for you. And very congruent with your health goals and what you need. Although your brain can resist, you know, because initially they do get more dopamine from the phone, couch, chocolate, Netflix phone, you know, things, which can all be okay. Maybe not chocolate, depending on your health goals. But they all can be okay. But maybe they're not as well.

Dr Lucy Burns: (18:50) Yeah, again, this is the whole thing, it’s like designing your own personal health plan. And only you can design it for you. People can sort of make suggestions, but only you truly know what is going to be helpful for you long term. And then being able to come up with ways, because your brain will come up with other ways to sort of divert you from those goals. And we want to be coming up with some counter ways to go, You know what, brain? I hear what you're saying, I hear you're saying that that's going to be good for me, it's going to make me feel better, this dopamine hit of something or other, but actually I prefer to get my own, I guess more endogenous dopamine if you like, rather than relying on artificial exogenous sources of it.

Dr Mary Barson: (19:34) Yes. And beautiful people. Sometimes people don't like this when I say it, but you know, you are the boss of you, and only you can figure it out for yourself. Of course, you know, we spend a lot of time doing coaching and helping people design you know, their own best lives, if you will. Helping them design ways in which they can live their lives according to their values and live their lives so that they are reaching their goals. But I reckon one of the key components here is that we can't just give you a script, even though that might feel safe and easy to someone, telling you what to do. It doesn't work. Not long term. You need to create your own script and review it, and change it and scribble bits off and say, Well, that didn't work, maybe if I try this. And just keep going and keep writing your own script, writing your own stories. You be honest, you reflect, you adjust, and you keep going. You're, you're your own scientist, your own compassionate scientist, and you can get there. You can achieve your health goals, you can find the right balance between soothing self care, and you can live your absolute best life.

Dr Lucy Burns: (20:45) Absolutely. Sometimes people think that it's something that you just sort of attend to every now and then and then it's done. And I think it's very much like a garden. There's, you know, the bare bones, the big structures, maybe you've got the big trees that are there forever. And then, you know, there's things in there that you can change. You might plant some plants and then after a few years go, Actually, they're not doing very well in this spot, you know, I'll either get rid of them, or I'll replant them. Or there may be plants that are sort of in fashion, according to whatever’s on Burkes Backyard, or whatever that show was called, Better Homes and Gardens. And then after a while you go, Oh I don't know why planted all those strappy leaf plants, I don't even like them. So you pull them out, and you start again. You know, it's constant pruning, constant adjusting, constantly evaluating. As the trees grow, suddenly an area that was in full sun is now in shade. So you're constantly, it's the same with us. It's not hard. But it does require just ongoing, just constant maintenance of yourself, of what you're doing, of your mind, and re evaluating and reviewing. And it can be fun. It doesn't have to be a job, a chore, another thing to do.

Dr Mary Barson: (21:56) Yep. I gamify my self reflection, to be quite honest. It's a goal that I set myself that I track it in my diary. And every time I do my little self reflection, I get to colour in a square. And I get to see the little squares going. So I'm basically bringing my little hit of dopamine into the moment with my self reflection, which, you know, just helps me spiral upwards and upwards.

Dr Lucy Burns: (22:21) Absolutely. And I think that satisfaction of doing something that you tell yourself you're going to do, and the follow through. Like there's a big amount of dopamine that comes from that, knowing that you have set yourself a task and you've done it. And the thing that a lot of us do though, is we minimise that goal. You know, cleaning house hardly needs a reward. But it can, the reward can just be a congratulation to yourself. It doesn't have to be, you know, a pair of sparkly shoes. It can be whatever you want, but it certainly deserves acknowledgement. Any time you set a goal for yourself, and you follow through, give yourself a little high five and a happy dance.

Dr Mary Barson: (23:02) Absolutely. Because our brains learn from success.

Dr Lucy Burns: (23:07) Indeed, indeed. All right, lovely listeners. I hope you have a beautiful week ahead. And we will see you next time.

Dr Mary Barson: (23:16) See you later.

Dr Lucy Burns: (23:25) So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns…

Dr Mary Barson: (23:33)  and I'm Dr Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit rlmedicine.com

Dr Lucy Burns: (23:44)  And until next time…

Both: (23:45) Thanks for listening!

Dr Lucy Burns: (23:47) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide, individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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